No wonder it all seemed so confused.
The recent snafu that saw Antonio Nogueira booked to fight Alexander Gustafsson, only for that fight to disappear days later because Noguiera was injured was pretty baffling and disconnected. Turns out it’s because it was.
MMAJunkie.com reports from last evening’s Fight Night press conference Dana White’s explanation.
“What happened was that night we decided to make the fight. Gustafsson said yes, and they couldn’t get hold of him, so I said, ‘F–k it,’ and just went with it and announced the fight, and of course, he’s hurt.”
In other words, Dana White pulled an executive decision which blew up in the UFC’s face. Had it been a screw-up by anyone else in the organization would probably result in a dismissal. But of course, you can’t fire the boss. White undoubtedly feels like the situation isn’t entirely his fault, as MMAJunkie reports White admits he is partially to blame.
How is White only partially to blame? He booked a fight without the knowledge of one of the participants. Just because that particularly felt he was not physically able to compete – and Nogueira’s tendency to be hurt and stay hurt is concerning – it does not forgive that this entire situation would not have occurred if the UFC had waited a day to get in touch. It is convenient for the UFC and White to push the public attention on the fighter and not the failure in the process.
Jon Jones did not appear too pleased yesterday when he commented on the easy match Alexander Gustafsson had booked against Antonio Noguiera. As Jones sees it, it’s a bit too convenient for the UFC and Gustafsson that his ticket back to the title would be a fairly pedestrian opponent.
Meet Jimi Manuwa.
Per MMAJunkie.com, UFC officials announced today that Manuwa, who fought recently on the UFC’s UK card, would get a crack at the Mauler on March 8.
Evidently the promotion thinks he can put on an entertaining show. Manuwa is 14-0 and 3-0 in the UFC – with all his UFC wins due to opponent injuries in their contests. Only one of those injury stoppages was between the bells, which can be credited to damage done by Manuwa. Even so, the UFC essentially replaces a guy who couldn’t keep himself healthy to a guy whose opponents can’t stay healthy during the actual fight.
Manuwa may very well be a solid challenge for Gustafsson – he has finished all 14 of his contests, with many by punches – but the point is we don’t know that now. It would be different were Manuwa on a streak of impressive wins against lesser competition or even one dominating win – but Manuwa hasn’t. He’s completely unproven in the UFC.
It’s the same argument made every year in college football by a Mountain West team looking to compete for a national title; Manuwa may be good, but is he UFC good?
Clearly the UFC sees this as a win-win. If Manuwa is a game opponent, they get a great contest and, ideally, Gustafsson wins in that scenario. If Manuwa gets starry eyed and falters, Gustafsson wins.
The UFC is very, very eager to keep a Gustafsson v. Jones rematch booked.
As the FD surmised when the fight was first announced, it appears other parties believe the Alexander Gustafsson v. Antonio Noguiera light heavyweight match looked funny.
Except these other parties have far more weight to their words. The title holder himself, Jon Jones, said as much when he spoke with Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com:
“Seems like these guys are not really having the toughest time to get to the belt. (Glover) Teixeira goes from Bader to a championship fight. Gustafsson went from Shogun (Rua) to a championship fight.”
The truth of the matter is, Jones can’t exactly criticize. It was also he who fought Bader before an injury fill-in put him against Rua for a title shot. Not only did he take the same road as Teixera, he claimed the belt from the same guy who Gustafsson upended to book his match. It isn’t exactly like Jones went through hell-and-high-water to get a crack at the belt by comparison.
Even so, he makes a great point. However you look at it, the UFC conveniently placed Gustafsson in a less complicated follow-up to his title fight with Jones. Lil Nog has never proven a top fighter in the division and has injury history; a poor option to legitimize a title rematch for Gustafsson.
Jones goes on to say he believes that he, Cormier (though having never fought at that weight class), Gustafsson, and Teixera are the top four fighters in the division. He contends if any combination of those four fighters is not competing with one another, it determines nothing. He wants to see Gustafsson and Cormier next.
“No disrespect to Nogueira, but let’s see Gustafsson versus Cormier. It makes so much sense.”
Coming off a five-round war against Alexander Gustafsson, it makes sense Jon Jones wanted some time to himself. With his next opponent already lined up – the powder-keg Glover Teixera – it makes more sense that Jones wanted lots of time to himself.
Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com reports that Jones’ agent, Malki Kawa, says a “best-case scenario” for Jones would be to defend his light heavyweight title against Teixera in March. However, if it comes to it Jones would also be open to fighting in February at UFC 170.
Jones is the most dominating fighter on the planet. What is remarkable is how quickly he earned that designation – from acquiring the title until his most recent fight with Gustafsson it has been only 20 months. With seven title fights in that span he’s averaged a fight nearly every three months. Jones has displayed remarkable durability to fight, dominate and recover in time to do it all again.
Bill Parcells once said the thing that separates the best from the greatest is durability. Jones has shown that durability. By taking nearly twice as long to prepare for his next title defence, it both speaks to the job Gustafsson did taking Jones to his limit and the threat that Texieira poses.
The FD reported a mere two days ago that Alexander Gustafsson would face Lil Nog on his climb back to a title shot.
Things change quickly. MMAFighting.com reports that Lil Nog is suffering from a lingering back injury and has pulled out.
This is a huge setback for Lil Nog. Injuries have plagued his entire UFC career and largely held him back from any type of contention. As sports terms go, he is considered injury prone. There has to be a serious lack of trust by the UFC to provide him with a significant fight for fear he does not make it to the show.
The situation hardly effects Gustafsson though. The fight was somewhat of a weak one in the first place. Hopefully now Gustafsson can get a shot at someone who will show up.
A rematch with the ever-improving Phil Davis sounds sweet – he’s the only man Gustaffson has ever lost to in the UFC.
UPDATE: Apparently, Gustafsson had been promised a title shot with a win over Lil Nog. So this situation really hardly changes little – the UFC is unlikely to rescind such an offer and will likely provide Gustafsson with a similar offer.
The UFC has some work to do.
An impressive article by Dave Meltzer at MMAFighting.com reveals the latest pay-per-view numbers (the essential lifeblood of the promotion a la TV-revenue for NFL games) are quite disappointing.
Recent studies show certain factors result in improved PPV drawing power. Factors such as a higher weight class, well-known fighters, grudge match, rematch, etc. often determine how well a card can draw. In a bubble these factors are a great barometer. When applied to outside factors, they can shrink in influence.
Despite the two recent cards being headlined by title fights at the two heaviest weight classes – one anchored by a formidable draw of Jon Jones, who has never drawn fewer than 400,000 PPV buys – early estimates are that neither card will top 325,000 buys. This summer, Anderson Silva v. Chris Weidman topped 525,000 buys.
Meltzer breaks down the many factors that contributed to the disappointing draws.
Jones fighting a low-profile fighter in Alexander Gustaffson (who is likely more well-known now) could have contributed. There was little to no bad blood. Few experts even expected Gustaffson to be much of a challenge. More damaging was the show was a week after Floyd Mayweather Jr. v. Canelo Alvarez boxing match which drew 2.2 million buys, the second biggest of all-time. Call it a hangover.
In the case of Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, the lower numbers are very curious. A trilogy fight between two of the best heavyweights in the sport’s history would surely be a monster draw – the fight was enough to sell out Houston’s Toyota Center which did the third-largest gate in the building’s history.
It appears that being wedged firmly beside the World Series playoffs, college football (prime time meetings between Clemson v. Florida State, USC v. Notre Dame, Arkansas v. Alabama), and HBO boxing could have put a dent in its audience. If that is the case, the UFC is still fighting for mainstream relevance in the marketplace. It’s a battle they are consistently making headway in, but not winning any decisive battles.
Meltzer makes another key point: the first time American audiences on mass saw Velasquez v. Dos Santos was when nine million tuned in for their first fight on Fox. That fight barely lasted a swig of beer before Velasquez was out on the mat. First impressions can last.
Outside of the PPV’s, the recent Fox card was also disappointing. Drawing only 122,000 viewers, it signaled the second lowest draw of the five Fox Sports 2 (and before it, Fuel) cards has broadcast. This in spit of a headliner fight between Lyota Machida v. Mark Munoz – easily the most attractive on paper when compared to the other five cards.
Meltzer goes on to point out it was not isolated to the UFC alone. The World Series of FIghting card that Saturday on NBC Sports drew 161,000 viewers (the lowest of its promotion to date) and Bellator on Spike the evening before did 520,000, its lowest this year as well. It appeared to be a bad weekend for MMA all around.
The UFC expects the upcoming 167 and 168 cards are each expected to top five million live gates, a figure the company has only hit six times in its history. Let’s hope they draw similarly on PPV, or this could be signalling a stagnating mark for the sport.
After being the only man to put his fists on Jon ‘Bones’ Jones in such a way to reveal the champ as human, it looks like Gustaffson won’t get an immediate rematch.
While this will surely disappoint some fans – a large majority thought he had won the fight – it is a logical outcome. Gustaffson hurt Jones and was able to match him on the feet while stiffing the champions otherworldly takedown ability. However, he never had Jones on the defensive. He never forced Jones out of his comfort zone or, presumably, his game plan. He simply stood in there.
Gustaffson is a tough, technical boxer who will get another shot – and soon. Unfortunately, it will have to wait until after a bout with Antonio Rogerio Noguiera.
The little brother of MMA legend, Minatauro Noguiera, Lil Nog has seen his career in the UFC stuttered via injuries and losses at the wrong time. After winning his first two UFC fights, a step up in competition led to a loss against Ryan Bader (in retrospect, not exactly the greatest sign of future title contention). He followed it up with a loss to Phil Davis (in retrospect, exactly the outcome one would expect from a title contender in Davis). The UFC needed him to rebound and thus booked him against the aging and ineffective Tito Ortiz, whom he defeated. That was back in 2011. Injuries put him on the shelf until earlier this year when he defeated a lackluster Rashad Evans.
So let’s look at this in Gustaffson’s camp. He takes the best fighter on the planet into the dog pound, bloodies him up in a competitive fight, then gets Lil Nog? A guy whose last win was over a painfully uninspired Rashad Evans, a fighter Jones annihilated last year? That’s a fighter with mediocre status. If Gustaffson is looking for a one-win title shot rematch, Lil Nog may not be the formula to get it.
On the flip side, if Nog can down The Mauler…well, things look mighty interesting for him.